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Government Needs To Blaze The Trail On Living Wage

14 February 2013

Government Needs To Blaze The Trail On Living Wage

The Public Service Association is calling on the government, as the country’s largest employer and funder of public services, to take the lead and provide a living wage to workers.

The Living Wage campaign is calling for wage rates which families can realistically live on, which it calculates to be $18.40 an hour.

The PSA represents 58,000 workers in the public and state sectors, district health boards, local government and community public services.

It estimates about 16 percent of its members, mainly women, are not earning a living wage.

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff says “there is a perception that public sector workers and those in DHBs and local government earn decent wages, but we have thousands of members such as librarians, DHB clerical and administration staff, public service workers, call centre employees and a raft of others who are earning less than $18.40 an hour.”

“They are on a low wage treadmill – battling higher housing, food and living costs while at the same time being offered minimal or zero percent pay increases.”

“It’s a case of public sector budget cuts translating into household budget cuts with many state sector agencies refusing to negotiate pay or across-the-board increases for staff as part of collective agreements,” he says.

Chronic underfunding of many community public services is also denying thousands of people such as home support and disability support workers a living wage.

Richard Wagstaff says a living wage would make a huge difference to these workers who put in long hours and provide high levels of professional care, yet earn minimum wages.

The PSA also believes any additional costs to the government in providing a living wage could be partially offset by the savings it could make.

“If workers are given an opportunity to earn a living wage, they would not have to rely so heavily on government benefits such as Working for Families and accommodation allowances. Providing a living wage should be seen as a valuable investment for everyone and one which will go some way towards narrowing the increasing gap between rich and poor,” says Mr Wagstaff.


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